Zoology

What do Reptiles Eat



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Do snakes eat steaks? Do frogs eat eggs? Can an iguana become obese? How does a turtle go on a diet?

The questions surrounding what reptiles eat can be as varied as those mentioned above, but the answers are really quite simple. For the purposes of this article, we will explore what reptiles that are captive pets should eat, and how to prepare that food for them.

Let's start with three simple questions that should guide your feeding of your reptile friend:
#1. What type of eater is your reptile: a carnivore, herbivore, insectivore or omnivore?
If you're not sure, ask an expert at your pet store or local zoo.

#2. When do you feed your crawling (or slithering) buddy?
*Many small snakes (and lizards) need to eat about twice a week.
*Young large snakes like to have a meal about three times a week.
*Large adult snakes eat about once every 2-3 weeks.
*Turtles and iguanas like to eat every day.

#3. Does your reptile need any supplements?
Probably yes. Most captive pet reptiles, since they are usually fed a relatively unvaried diet, need two supplements: calcium and Vitamin D. Getting this into them is simple: mix the powder (which you can get at your local pet store) with the food. Then feed your pet!

Now let's see what the four types of eaters like to consume. This discussion will go straight to the point.

*Carnivores
-First off, most wild carnivores like to eat living prey and will possibly have a favorite. But captive pet reptiles can usually be trained to eat what you want them to eat, for simplicity's sake. For example:

Even if your reptile is used to eating other smaller reptiles, you can get them used to eating small rodents. This can be accomplished by scenting these food mice with the the scent of a small lizard or frog. Do this by keeping a prekilled lizard in the freezer, then rubbing it against the food you want to get your reptile to eat.

-While live prey might be fun to watch as it runs around, some captive-bred reptiles might get scared of them, having perhaps been bitten by its own prey before! So go ahead and try feeding your reptile pre-killed food.

-If you leave live prey in the habitat, leave something for your reptile's future food to eat. This way your reptile's prey won't start chewing on your pet.

-If your reptile won't eat pre-killed prey, try holding it with some tongs and mimicking the movement of life. This actually works sometimes.

-Size of food is important for some reptiles. For lizards, try to keep the food about 2/3 the length of the lizard's head. For snakes, simply make sure that the food is no bigger at its widest point than the snake at its widest. This will reduce choking and regurgitation.

*Herbivores
-Fresh fruit and veggies. Keep it fresh and change out food that has not been eaten.

-Size matters with herbivores as well. You don't need to worry about making the food totally bite size, but chunks should be manageable and leaves relatively small. What is more, if you chop the food into small bits, your pet won't be able to pick out his favorite parts as easily and you will be able to mix in supplements better.

-Good foods for herbivorous reptiles include: yams, dandelion flowers, avocado, turnip greens, cabbages and broccoli, cantaloupe and blueberries.

*Insectivores
-Catch your own insects! Some studies have shown that insects bred as feeder bugs might not provide all the nutrients your reptile needs. So go out with a net or set out a trap.

-Crickets and grasshoppers (as long as they're still small), along with small roaches and occasional mealworm larvae are the best for most insectivores.

-Shake and bake your feeder insects! Put them in a jar, sprinkle the correct amount of supplement in the jar, then shake the jar around to coat your reptile's food with the supplement.

-Make sure all the bugs are eaten by nightfall, or they might just decide to chew on your pet!

*Omnivores
-Keep everything above in mind! But also make sure that you are certain your pet is an omnivore before trying to feed it everything. Vary the diet and keep it interesting!

So as you can see, feeding your pet reptile is something of a commitment, as they are rather exotic critters. However, the education and satisfaction that you gain from raising and caring for a healthy reptile is invaluable. Plus, they're just really cool-looking and make great conversation starters. Hey, wouldn't dangling a dead mouse in front of a snake pretty much break the ice at any party?

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